Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Vegan For Dinner

Tonight we had our friend Carey over for dinner (rescheduled from last week). She's leaving Seattle for her hometown of Portland this Saturday, and in the short time we've known her, she's become a good friend. She's full of energy and ideas and enthusiasm, and everyone I know who's met her has instantly fallen in love with her constant positive energy.

When we met her, she was a true vegetarian. Recently, she stepped it up a notch by going vegan, and her plans are to move to a macrobiotic/raw food diet once she's settled in back in PDX.

So in honor of our last meal together (for a little while), I made Mojito Seitan for dinner. This time, I used mint instead of cilantro, cut back on the hot sauce, and paired it with some brown rice. Unfortunately, it turns out Carey doesn't really enjoy red peppers, but she was a polite guest and powered through eating some.

I also tried my hand at a little vegan baking. I started by looking in a vegan dessert cookbook I have, but the recipes relied on too many ingredients and swung unnecessarily toward specialty ingredients to replace already non-animal products. For example, sugar was almost always replaced by maple syrup, and some recipes called for arrowroot (a natural thickener) - which I don't have around.

So I decided to start with a tried and true recipe for brownies, which only had a couple ingredients in need of switching out: eggs and butter. Eggs are easily replaced in baking recipes with 1/4 cup water mixed with 1 teaspoon of flax powder (for each egg). And butter is easily replaced in most recipes with a no-animal product margarine or shortening. Last year, I was doing some food chemistry experiments with flax powder, so I had it around. With those replacements, the recipe still turned out moist and delicious (if I do say so myself). I added a little icing (made from powdered suger, tofu, and vegan cream cheese), and topped it off with some raspberries.

Vegan Brownies
1 stick unsalted margarine
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup suger
1 tspn salt
1/2 cup water
2 tspn flax powder
1 tspn vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x9 backing dish. Melt margarine in the microwave. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt. In a small mixing bowl, stir together flax powder and water. Add vanilla and melted butter to flax mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined (but don't overmix). Pour the batter into the backing dish and bake for 30 minutes. Let brownies sit for 10 minutes before cutting.

(Brownie recipe adapted from Cheap & Easy: A Cookbook for Girls on the Go, with egg replacement advice from Sinfully Vegan.)

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